Inspiring Julia Bradbury documentary ‘can shift the dial’ on breast cancer screenings

TV presenter Julia Bradbury’s documentary charting her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer has been hailed by a leading surgeon for helping underline the importance of screenings that were put on hold during the pandemic.

Breast Cancer and Me, shown last night, followed Julia from the aftermath of her diagnosis through to her preparations for a mastectomy, which she underwent successfully in October last year.

And the 51-year-old’s bravery in sharing her experiences will have a positive ripple effect, says consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon Ms Lucy Khan, encouraging more women to check their breasts and visit their GPs, as well as increasing calls for the government to give more funding to NHS screening programmes.

A new report from Public Health Scotland showed a 40% drop in breast cancer screenings during the pandemic, while the charity Breast Cancer Now has estimated up to a million women missed mammogram appointments because of Covid-19.

Ms Khan also believes that while the NHS in England offers regular screenings to women from the age of 47, younger women should be careful not to view this as a “safety net” and regularly check their breasts for any lumps or abnormalities. A study funded by The National Institute for Health Research showed that of the 55,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, 10,000 were under 50.

Ms Lucy Khan said: “Last night’s documentary was a powerful reminder of the life-changing effects of breast cancer, which will affect one in every seven women in the UK.

“Julia deserves immense praise, not only for her courage in the wake of her diagnosis, but for recognising the huge impact a film like this by a well-known public figure can have in raising awareness.

“Breast screening clinics were scaled back during the pandemic, resulting in many missed mammogram appointments. It is vital that these services are well funded and run at maximum capacity so women do not miss out on potentially life-saving care.

“While women are automatically invited to be screened every three years from 47, younger women may not have breast cancer on their radar in the same way, or may feel they can afford to wait until they are invited.

“Yet women are being diagnosed younger and younger and those under 47 should not consider the free screening programme as a safety net. It’s important for women of all ages to self-examine their breasts and contact their GPs if they have any concerns.”

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